Clean-up continues, planning begins

Robert Smith
Felix Nance

HOMINY — Municipal emergency management director Felix Nance said Monday morning that a registration center had been opened at the First Christian Church and would remain active all week, to help residents affected by flooding last week use the website to submit information.

The information submitted through the registration center will be matched against survey records already developed by the city of Hominy, to make sure the city has an accurate disaster survey, Nance said.

Hominy was among Osage County communities hit hard last week by flooding. Nance said the local Ministerial Alliance has set up an account with the First Bank of Hominy to receive disaster relief donations.

Dumpsters would hopefully be arriving Tuesday, May 28, to help with debris removal, Nance said. Additionally, an Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief mud team had already worked on about a dozen houses and had a few more to go, he said Monday, May 27.

On top of all that, Hominy officials and residents are keeping an eye on the weather forecasts. Nance noted a possibility of more severe weather Tuesday night.

The initial damaging rains fell Monday night, May 20, and into May 21.

Hominy had rain and street flooding last Wednesday night, May 22, but no new house flooding that Nance was aware of first thing Thursday morning, May 23. A tornado reportedly passed to the west of Hominy the night of May 22, but did not directly strike the community.

“I think we got by,” Nance said.

Municipal officials had warned the public in a town meeting Wednesday afternoon, May 22, to be ready for another night of storms and rain, in addition to the storms Monday and Tuesday that dropped more than eight inches of rain and resulted in numerous high-water rescues. Nance said in the meeting that the bulk of the earlier rain fell in a period of about three and a half hours.

“That’s what caused the problem,” Nance said May 22. “Just so you know, Mother Nature is thinking about flexing her muscles again tonight. So I encourage you to maintain your weather awareness.”

Hominy officials said some 75-100 people were adversely affected by the storms May 20-21. The fire department rescued about 40 people from their homes and another 13 from vehicles.

Coby Surritte, assistant fire chief, said the first rescue call came in about 8:24 p.m. May 20. It was a vehicle rescue that involved a woman, a small child and a dog, he said.

“We were getting call after call after call,” Surritte said. “It didn’t stop for hours … the calls never stopped.”

Surritte said firefighters carried out rescue operations in some homes where there was more than five feet of water. The families of two firefighters were affected by home flooding, but those firefighters remained focused on their duties and participated in rescue operations, he said.

Hominy Police Chief Michael Martin also had to evacuate his home, which was completely flooded.

Surritte said rescue operations continued almost until 1 a.m. Tuesday, May 21. Hominy firefighters received assistance from Wynona and Cleveland, and from the Osage County Sheriff’s Office and ranchers, he said. Forty homes and six businesses were damaged by the storms.

“No one was injured. It was amazing to see,” Surritte said.

Janeen Stuart, of the Ministerial Alliance, said the afternoon of May 22 that the Church of the Nazarene, which has a basement, was already open in anticipation of rough weather the coming evening. First Christian Church, which sheltered evacuees the night of May 20, would also be available, she said.

Stuart said additional food and cleaning supplies would be important in the coming days, but the faith community would not be taking donations of clothing and shoes.

Nance cautioned residents they will need to discard water-damaged household items that could grow mold. He mentioned carpeting, bedding and furniture such as couches.

“That stuff will grow mold,” he said. Nance said it will be necessary to separate different types of items intended for disposal. “You are going to have multiple piles in your front yard for a while, I am sorry to say.”

Taking up another critical topic, Nance emphatically told residents that Hominy’s drinking water is safe. He acknowledged that flooding initially made it impossible for city employees to get into the water treatment plant, but said workers eventually got in and found that the automated plant was functioning correctly.

“The water is safe to drink,” he said May 22. “I will say that again, the water is safe.”

Hominy officials said they hoped the Red Cross, which is busy providing assistance throughout Oklahoma, would be in Hominy soon. Officials also voiced hope the community would receive help from Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief.

City Manager Jimmie Ratliff II said May 22 that trash had not been picked up in Hominy since the first wave of storms hit May 20. Residents were told dumpsters would be made available, but it might be the first part of the week of May 27-31 before those were put in place, he said.

Ratliff said the municipality would be creating damage assessment form for use in assessing properties. He also assured residents that while the local lake is high, the dam is not in any danger.